On March 7, the National Nurse Act of 2019 was introduced in the 116th Congress as a bill. HR 1597/S 696 calls for designation of a Chief Nurse Office of the US Public Health Service, who would be a publicly visible leader to address health disparities and set goals for better public health.
Cancer is one of the key health conditions listed in the bill’s language, as it has a massive impact on public health and our economy. Nurses provide the direct services needed to improve outcomes around chronic disease and cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and management. We educate the public on preventable risk factors, teaching them to reduce their risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, 38.4 percent of the population expected to have cancer at some point in their lives1. Our role in supporting this bill as oncology nurses is crucial to its success.
Elected leaders need to hear from nurses on the front lines of patient care. We are trusted, our voices matter, and we will be heard. Nurses are the voice of health promotion and we are in an ideal position to influence and lead national conversations and policy around healthcare.
There is evidence of the effectiveness of how visible leadership around cancer-related public health messages can positively impact the public’s participation in prevention efforts.2
What can oncology nurses do right now to further these efforts? Get involved.
1. Visit http://nationalnurse.org to learn more about the bill. There is link to a convenient summary at the top of the page.
2. Contact your senators and representatives in Congress right away. If you don’t know who they are, go here to find your representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
Senators for your state can be found here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
3. A simple email is a good start, but to be even more effective, gather as many nurses and citizens in your district to write them too. The more letters they get on a particular issue, the more they will pay attention. Urge them, in your letter, to co-sponsor HR 1597 (House of Representatives) or S. 696 (Senate).
4. Find out who your representative’s healthcare staffer is. Writing directly to the staff member is helpful as well; you can always copy them both on an email. This will be your main contact when you have any healthcare issue you want to bring to your Representative’s attention.
Nicole Barnett, DHSc, MBA, RN, CNL is a member of the National Nursing Network Organization Advocacy Team. She succinctly emphasizes the importance of this bill, "The prevention of chronic disease is at the core of the solution for the rising cost of healthcare in our country. Of all the important healthcare related legislative efforts currently underway, none explicitly speaks to the important role that nursing leadership plays in shaping national healthcare policy the way that the National Nurse Act does. Designating the Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS as the National Nurse for Public Health is timely, appropriate and impactful.”
Your voice is needed to elevate the profile and visibility of nurses now. Your patients’ lives depend on it.
1. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database, 2013-2015 data https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html
2. Cram, P., Fendrick AM., Inadomin, J., Cowen ME., Carpenter, D., Vijan, S. 2003. The impact of a celebrity promotional campaign on the use of colon cancer screening: the Katie Couric effect. Archives Internal Medicine. 163(13). 1601-1605.